1. Promote Independence
Young children love to show off how big they are by putting their shoes on all by themselves. Recommend that parents provide shoes with simple, uncomplicated closures for small fingers to manipulate.
2. Set the Stage
Put the shoes and socks on the floor in front of the children so they face out the way they walk. Because it is too hard for children to balance standing on one leg, make sure they sit on the floor to put on, and push down on, their shoes.
3. Introduce the "Sock Pull Op"
If a sock is long, have the child gather the top in his hands "like a crunched paper towel," so he won't have to pull and pull to get it on. Then encourage him to find the big bump for the heel in the foot part of the sock. Face the "bump" down toward the floor while he slides his foot into the sock and pulls it up.
4. Teach Lace-Up Techniques
At first, children may enjoy practicing lacing skills by weaving a shoelace in and out of a homemade lacing card. You can create one by punching holes around the edge of a flat plastic lid. Then let children try lacing a large shoe before lacing the smaller ones on their feet.
5. Try Some Tying Tricks
For first time shoe tiers, you may want to use permanent markers to color code each half of the lace. You can then give the child color clues as he follows your directions to cross over his laces or make loops for the bow. Sit behind the child when you demonstrate how to tie so you are working on his shoe from his viewpoint!
6. Play a Bunny Game
Make this complicated task fun! Try a bunny chase game: Make an X with the long "bunny ear" laces. Chase one long lace through the "bunny hole." Pull tight. Take one lace and make a loopy "bunny ear." With the other lace, make another big bunny ear. Run one ear around the other. Quick, go through the bunny hole. Pull tight. Voila! A tied shoe!
7. Tell Shoe-Tying Tales
Share shoe-tying books. Tie a Bow, Ben Bunny by Mavis Smith (Scholastic Inc.; $9.95) is a great hands-on story with step-by-step instructions. You can also make up your own stories and songs.
8. Provide Lots of Practice
Nail an old pair of shoes to a board. Offer colorful paint and glitzy glitter that children can use to decorate the shoes. Invite children to practice shoe tying on these "magical shoes."
9. Promote Shoe-Tying Safety
Show children how to double-knot so that laces don't become untied. Encourage them to chase one "bunny ear loop" around the garden, pop it into the burrow, then pull it through and tighten it when it reaches the other side.
Susan A. Miller, Ed.D., is a professor of early childhood education and the author of six books, including Learning Through Play: Language (Scholastic Inc.: $10.95). Dr. Miller is a contributing writer and consultant for Circle Time Activities (Publications International, Ltd., 2001).